Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grandmotherly Chats and Kisses

After breakfast at a local place this past Sunday I stopped in the ladies room. Coming out of the stall I heard someone talking in a fussing sort of way. As I approached the sink, there was only one old woman standing there, with her cane taking up the entire counter. She was 'dressed up' for church in that way old ladies do, and frustrated that she'd gotten ketchup on her bright blue scarf. Her fluffs of wavy white hair had not visited the beauty parlor in awhile, and her face hung loose and low as she stood there looking down at the spot.

As she continued to dab and rub and douse she asked me if I thought it was a good idea to do so. Would it just make the stain set in more? I told her probably cold water was a good idea, that ketchup is hard to get out but maybe if she put some stain stuff on it as soon as she got home, while it was still wet, it would come out okay. I smiled and said goodbye, then walked out and headed back to my table.

I remembered a stain removal stick in my purse, so I grabbed it and went back to the ladies room, walked up to her and began to work on the stain on her scarf that was now pretty wet. I told her I thought this might help, and hoped it would come out clean when she got home. As I dabbed away, I noticed her pale blue eyes. Probably years ago, when they were brighter she didn't need to wear blue to bring them out but the years had faded any color from her face.

I put the cap on the stick, and before I knew what happened, she grabbed my face between both her hands and pulled me to her, gave me the biggest, smooshy in a grandmotherly way, kiss on my cheek. She said, "there are still nice people out there. Thank you, honey." I told her she was quite welcome and went on my way, tickled at the political uncorrectness of it all, kissing a complete stranger, in a less than spotless bathroom.

Yesterday I was at the local Goodwill looking for treasures. While I did find TWO pairs of capris, and two white coffee mugs that are perfect for an afternoon latte, I also picked up several Disney movies for the grandkids to enjoy when they come to visit. Standing there with my head crooked sideways, an old woman wandered up, and started looking at the movies with me. She began to give me a running commentary on which ones were good, had I seen them, etc. etc. I sensed that maybe she just needed someone to talk to.

It made me think back to a time when the Welcome Wagon lady showed up at our door, and I talked her ears off before bursting into a blubbery mess. That poor woman! It was a time when we'd just moved, and I was home with three small children while Don was busy working 7 days a week. I just needed someone to talk to who was over ten years old.

The white haired woman spoke, "do you like John Wayne?"

I wondered, do I look like a girl who would like JW? I said, 'well, actually, yes I do. And my son really likes him.' She handed me an old VCR movie and told me it was JW's best movie ever and I should watch it. Which meant I should buy it.

Then she added 'if you don't like it, you can come back and give me a kick or two.'

I assured her I would not be doing that, but took the movie from her hands and added it to my pile of purchases. She told me she comes there to find movies for her great-grandkids, and that she'd get down on the floor to look at the movies on the lower shelves but she wasn't sure she'd ever get up again. So we commiserated about low shelves and crummy knees a bit, talked about grandchildren, and good bargains too.

Both run-ins were completely delicious. I don't know whose grandmother either of them might be, but hope they are treasured. I wondered if either gets lonely, needs a bit more conversation with another human on a daily basis, maybe most days feel like too much to get through before night falls and they sit down to supper alone. After Don's father died, his mother said supper alone was the hardest part to get used to. Many nights she'd just heat up a little something to avoid having to sit down at the table by herself.

Days later I'm still turning both visits over in my mind, feeling blessed to have run into each of them. I came away with a lot more than a hot breakfast and some capris, mugs and movies.


Becky said...

It sounds like you already live in the south ... where no one knows a stranger. What wonderful encounters. Precious really. And they were lucky to run into YOU!!

Gretchen said...

Agree with Becky--100%.

What treasures, indeed. Many moons ago, I worked with folks who had strokes, brain injuries, brain tumors, and dementia. You know...the oldest patients were always my favorite. I don't know if it was because my grandma (who was still young, good gracious because she's only 83 now) came to live with Mom and me when I was 12, and I just expected to have a grandparent near me at all times, or what. I loved the stories, both sad and sweet. I loved the long relationships. And, doggone it, it was sure hard to see a spouse walk out of the hospital at the end of the day or at the end of his/her loved one's life. Rich, indeed.

Kelly said...

Love that you shared both of these encounters, and love even more that you took the time to reach out and engage these precious ladies.
You really do have the sweetest heart, and I find that rare in todays hustle bustle world. It always makes me so sad when I see elderly people trying to chat with strangers and being rushed. You were sure to be a blessing to both of them, and to me as well.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the little daily niceties that we can share with others we encounter.

Barb said...

This is the sweetest thing you've shared in ages, Bev. I agree with Becky. Both the little old ladies were blessed when they ran into you.

I'm always in such a hurry, it doesn't happen very often (I'm kind of hard to catch), but I recently had an encounter like this with an ancient old man in the wild birds department at Wal-Mart. You could put what I know about wild birds and feeders and seed in a thimble. But I found I was able to stand there and discuss hummingbirds and nectar and feeders with that little old man, for fifteen minutes. Sweet, sweet.

The older I get, the more I find myself hoping there are some young people out there who are just waiting to run into me some day, and make my day, just like you made theirs.

Susanne said...

Now that is what I call God moments. The key is to slow ourselves down and recognize them for what they are. Sweet stories, Bev!

Dana~Are We There Yet? said...

These are, I believe, little glimpses of eternity. Beautiful!

Diane@Diane's Place said...

I try to remember that if God lets me live that long, some day I'll be one of those friendly older people who just want to share a bit of time with me because they need a human touch or just to talk a bit.

God bless you for not turning away from them.



Leah in Iowa said...

Sounds like God put you where He wanted you both times! I'm glad you took the extra minutes and effort with those gals. I also love the fact that you're such a softie, and still thinking about it days later!!!

Sarah said...

God knew to put you in that restroom, because He knew you'd never leave home without your stain stick :)

I ran into an older woman at Target once who really, really, REALLY disapproved of my choice of a vacuum I was buying, and told me over and over and over. It was absolutely hilarious, and later, when I, too, hated that vacuum, I remembered her.

I'd love to run into YOU somewhere in 20 years; you're already a trip now, I can't imagine how fun you'll be two decades from now! (And we both know that in 20 years, I'll be your age. Weird, isn't it?)

joan said...

I think you have a heart for people who are in need. How nice. My Dad also tells me how hard it is to eat dinner every night since my Mom died. Sometimes older people just need someone to talk to and in the end we learn something too by talking to them.

Renna said...

Bless your heart, Bev, for taking the time with those women as you did. I could just picture someone doing for my late Nanny what you did for the woman in the bathroom. I'm not sure my Nanny would've kissed them on the cheek (she might have), but I know she'd have been blessed, and called them "Sweetie". You are, a sweetie!

Julie Gillies said...

Hi Bev,

What a sweet story! We all need each other, don't we? How sweet of you to bring kind words and deeds into 2 strangers' day. And look how much they blessed YOU, as well...and now US! :)

The comment you left on my blog sent a little 'shock' through me, as I wondered how you knew I am finishing up a book proposal. Then I realized you DIDN'T know (LOL) and were referring to my post. No memoirs yet, though. Just a women's Bible study.

Faith said...

You brought back a sweet memory to me with those stories... I was in the thrift store a while back with my 2 younger sons (they and 8 and 9) and while I looked around, they sat one one of the couches the store was selling and looked at books. This is a normal routine and I thought nothing of it. As we got ready to pull out of our parking place when we were done shopping, an older lady stopped her car right behind my van. She got out and came up to my window and told me (as she patted my hand, just the way my grandma used to)that she "was very impressed with the way those young men had behaved themselves in the store and that she would like to reward them for it." Then she handed me a dollar bill to do something special for them. There has never been a dollar bill that was more special to me, and she was so glad to do it. God used that lady to bless me and I hope he'll use me in the same way when it's my turn to be one of the "older ladies." Thanks for sharing this with your blogland fans!